Counting every individual, every species in the hemisphere
December 17, 2006
A theater isn’t the only place to catch a nutcracker performance during the holidays in South Lake Tahoe.
Roger and Cindy Pastore Walker spotted 49 of the Clark’s nutcracker soaring over Barton Meadow Sunday in the first hour of participating in the National Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count. The pigeon-size, black, white and gray bird flies like a crow, with calls like a guttural “kraaa.”
On Sunday, Pastore Walker said the blanket of snow made spotting birds much easier. She and her husband started the count in the back yard of their Springwood Drive home by marking down a hairy woodpecker, mourning doves and juncos.
“One time, we saw an Eastern screeching owl out here,” she said. The couple also mentioned a great horned owl that frequents the neighborhood.
Walker, a 28-year Tahoe resident, said the flat light caused by a dull gray sky makes it a little more difficult to spot birds.
The Western Hemisphere bird census, which started in 1900, brings out more than 50,000 bird enthusiasts to count individual species and numbers. Counters may use birds seen within the two-weeklong event, but Sunday’s push in Tahoe brought out fewer birders than in some years – just five people. And some may argue there are fewer birds, as species seek warmer climates when winter’s wrath starts.
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“(The weather) tends to flush them out. A lot of birds try winter here. But after the first big storms, they’ll leave,” said Tahoe bird count organizer Will Richardson, who’s writing a book about species in the Lake Tahoe Basin.
Richardson joined Kirk Hardie at Cove East, an area next to Tahoe Keys Marina that the California Tahoe Conservancy implemented to restore vegetation and wildlife to the region.
All the counts are recorded into a hemspherical collective database resulting from volunteers in the U.S., Canada, Central and South America, the Caribbean and Pacific Islands.